I’ve never been watermelon’s biggest fan. In fact, I might have gone a few summers without ever having it in my house–until babies and toddlers entered my life. They love this stuff. I mean, can’t get enough. To the point that, not only do I buy it every week, but we sometimes run out before the next grocery run. And it isn’t pretty when that happens. So, I’ve taken to buying a whole one each week. The kind you need a big scary knife to cut into. The first week it came in with the groceries, the engineer was appalled at how much watermelon there was. He didn’t think we could possibly eat it all in one week (we could). It did seem like an overwhelming amount though, so we sliced one half for the fridge, and made the other half into watermelon popsicles. I can’t figure out why I didn’t think of this sooner. If you don’t have popsicle sticks, just cut them into big triangles and freeze them that way instead. When I have popsicle sticks handy now, I cut the watermelon into roughly 2 in x 5 in pieces, insert the stick, and stick them in the freezer on a wax paper lined sheet pan until they harden (about 30 minutes). Then I transfer them to quart size ziploc bags until we’re ready to eat them. Easy to do and makes you look super cool at your next barbecue!
The baby and I have been eating dairy free for awhile now. Definitely not by choice. The truth is that I figured we would be eating ice cream like champs by now, so I didn’t put much thought into loads of dairy free recipes. But, since we’re still doing this, and I really couldn’t last another week without a baked good (and I’m pretty sure she couldn’t either), I finally got down to business. Poor girl couldn’t watch her sister eat homemade waffles any longer.
The first time I took a stab at these muffins, they were a bit dry and not overly sweet. The engineer practically spit his out (I think he would sugar his sugar if he could). The girls and I ended up scarfing down the whole batch though. The next time, I upped the applesauce and oil by a bit and the result was just right. These are truly a breakfast muffin–not too sweet, but filling and satisfying thanks to the oatmeal. I love that they’re made with applesauce, which is something that’s in my pantry year round. When they’re in season, I definitely plan to add some fresh shredded apple as well. Adapted from Hannah Barringer Loudon.
- 1¼ cups AP flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1½ cups unsweetened applesauce
- ½ cup water
- 5 tbsp canola oil
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1½ cups old-fashioned oats
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar, applesauce, water, oil, egg and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly add dry mixture to wet mixture until just combined
- Carefully stir oats into mixture
- Immediately spoon into 12 lined-muffin tins and bake in preheated oven for 16-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Are there any two things more quintessentially summer than strawberries and lemonade? Well, ok, there’s watermelon, tomatoes, blueberries, pale ales, ice cream, not to mention anything grilled. Fine. There are other just as ‘summery’ things. But, right now, there are loads of strawberries at the local farms and my fridge is full of lemonade. And, really, strawberry season is over so quickly that I need to embrace every sweet juicy berry that I can before I’m back to having to buy them from the grocery store shipped from California (or someplace even further away). So, while I can, I’m going to make lemonade. Well, strawberry lemonade. Well, actually, my kids are still sick and I don’t have time to make lemonade from scratch, so store bought will work just as well. Here you go, friends. Easy, refreshing and sure tastes like summer.
- 2 medium sized strawberries + 1 to garnish the glass
- 8 ounces lemonade
- Remove stems from strawberries and place them in glass (or pitcher if making for a crowd!)
- Muddle (fancy word for squish around) the strawberries with a pestle (or spoon or whatever is handy)
- Fill glass with ice.
- Top off with lemonade
- Place a ripe strawberry on the glass rim for garnish
It’s one of the first beautiful weeks of summer and it started off great. On a warm, dry sunny Monday, the kids and I set out to go strawberry picking. From my teen years, I remember my best friend Heather’s mom going strawberry picking and making jars and jars of beautiful, sweet, sticky strawberry jam. I would beg, barter and plead my way to as many jars of it as I could manage. The jar rarely lasted more than a few days for me. Ever since, I’ve wanted to make my own strawberry picking pilgrimage. Not necessarily to make the jam, because I’m just not sure I have the time or patience for that task right now. But just to get out there. And then have gobs of strawberries to eat or make into strawberry shortcake or whatever. Surely, it would live up to my childhood daydreams about it anyway. Well, the strawberry picking itself was pretty good. Let’s just say all my plans for doing magical things with the strawberries, not so much. Kiddos got sick the next day and by the time I got back to those beautiful strawberries, well, they weren’t quite as pretty. As it turns out though, they were still just perfect for a few things. And this was one of them.
My strawberries were so sweet that sugar would have been overkill. You can add sugar or honey depending on the sweetness of your strawberries and lemonade. I always have lemonade in my fridge, but if you don’t, use water with a squeeze of lemon or lime. For denser popsicles, use closer to 4 cups of strawberries and less lemonade. This recipe made just enough for my set of six large Tovolo popsicle molds, but I certainly would not frown upon using any leftovers as a rum mixer. Adapted from Martha Stewart.
- 2-4 cups fresh strawberries
- 1-2 cups lemonade
- Remove stems from strawberries
- Add strawberries and lemonade to a blender or food processor.
- Blend or pulse until the desired consistency is reached (blend more for smooth popsicles, less for chunk popsicles)
- Immediately poor mixture into popsicle molds and place in freezer
- Freeze overnight
- To remove from mold, run popsicle briefly under warm water and then gently pull/wiggle to remove the mold from popsicle
Easy Fried Rice
One of the bummers about having a food sensitivity in the family is that eating out can be tricky. And by tricky, I mean we don’t do it very often. Asian restaurants typically top the charts in terms of restaurants we can’t eat at, so when we find one that’s “safe”, we latch on. And by latch on, I mean we’ve been going to our favorite place for over 10 years. We’ve moved a few times over the years, though, and it’s no longer even close to convenient to get there, so we’ve had to find a way to make our favorite dishes at home. This fried rice is inspired by a similar dish at our favorite place. It’s not an overly salty version to begin with (which is why the engineer has always liked it — doesn’t seem likely there could be MSG hiding in it!) , so if you were looking for a salt and MSG fix, keep googling. The beauty of this recipe to me is that it only involves ingredients that I ALWAYS have in my kitchen. Perfect for those nights when I have no time and no groceries. Cooking the rice with a bouillon cube is an easy way to impart some additional flavor (here is my favorite MSG-free bouillon). If you’ve got a wok, great, if you don’t like me, just use a cast iron skillet or non stick pan.
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1½ cups water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ vegetable bouillon cube (or enough to make 1 cup stock)
- non-stick cooking spray
- 1 egg
- 1½ - 2 cups frozen vegetable medley
- ¼ soy sauce
- Prepare the rice by combining the rice, water, olive oil and bouillon cube in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
- Cover and reduce to simmer.
- Simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is fluffy but not mushy.
- Once the rice is ready, fluff it with a fork and set it aside.
- Beat the egg and cook it in a nonstick pan or skillet or medium heat as if you were scrambling it.
- Meanwhile, place frozen vegetables in microwave for 30 seconds (if they have not already thawed)
- Add vegetables, rice and soy sauce.
- Stir to combine.
Toaster Oven Pancakes
It’s a hot summer morning. And a weekday. And the kids have been sick all week which means NO ONE in the house has slept all week. As I stumble bleary-eyed into the kitchen, my cherubic faced toddler asks for pancakes. Now, let’s be honest. If anyone else had requested pancakes on this particular morning, they would have gotten a smart ass retort and an eye roll. But, this child had been sick and not eating much all week. How could I say no? Actually, how could I say yes and maintain my sanity? Pancakes are time consuming and require standing in front of a hot stove, right? Not necessarily. As it turns out, there was a way to appease my toddler’s request and make me look and feel like super mom in the process. Enter baked pancakes and my trusty toaster oven–two things which totally rock my world.
- 1 cup AP flour
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¼ salt
- ¾ cup milk
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Check whether your toaster oven can fit an 8x8 baking pan. If yes, preheat your toaster oven to 350 degrees F. If not, preheat your regular oven.
- Spray an 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray.
- Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Place butter in microwave on high for 45 seconds.
- Whisk together the milk, melted butter, egg and vanilla.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisking until just combined.
- Pour into greased pan and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Cut into squares and serve immediately with plenty of maple syrup.
The Infinitely Adaptable Taco
Tacos are a staple in our house. Not only because they are an easy, last minute fix, but because, if made correctly, our whole family can eat them–baby through engineer. It doesn’t hurt that I, personally, could eat tacos almost every day of the week. The one challenge we do have in our house is with taco seasoning. It’s kind of a big no-no. There was one mainstream brand we used for many years that didn’t make the engineer sick, but they’ve started to subtly change ingredients over the years, so, we finally called it quits. As it turns out, you can make your own with spices you most likely already have in your pantry. This is a huge bonus for me as I had been known to plan tacos for dinner, only to realize at 5:15 that we were out of taco seasoning.
We all eat our tacos differently right now–baby, totally deconstructed and strewn across her high chair table–meat and avocado. Toddler, starts rolled up, but usually ends up eating the filling with fingers–meat,tomatoes, avocado and extra cheese. Me, rolled with pickles on the side–meat, salsa, avocado (dairy free right now because of baby, but normally EXTRA sour cream). And, finally, the engineer. Rolled with pickles (he got this idea from me), avocado, extra cheese and hot sauce.
Here’s how I like to make the seasoning mix for our family. It’s a mild version so that the little palettes and heart burn sufferers stay happy. If you like your tacos with a kick, experiment with adding more chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.
- 3 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1½ tsp paprika
- 5 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 lb ground beef, turkey or chicken
- 2 tbsp flour
- ⅔ cup water
- 3 tbsp taco seasoning
- tortillas or hard taco shells
- shredded lettuce
- bell peppers
- shredded cheese
- sour cream
- Combine all spices together and store in an airtight container.
- To make ground beef/turkey/chicken tacos, brown 1 lb of preferred ground meat.
- Sprinkle the meat with flour and stir to combine.
- Add the taco season and water and stir.
- Let simmer 5 minutes, uncovered, or until sauce is desired thickness.
- If using tortillas, place 1-4 tortillas between damped paper towels and microwave on high 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add meat and toppings to tortilla/taco shell and serve immediately.
You’re not getting sick of strawberries yet, right? Ok, good, me neither. In fact, while we can still get strawberries at the farm stand, we’ve been using them a little recklessly during the week. Sneaking an extra bowl of Cheerios in at night, just so we have an excuse to eat a few more. I have all kinds of strawberry-related recipes swirling in my head, but it’s one of those weeks where they’re just not getting done. So, I say, let’s keep it simple. Let’s just eat strawberries with everything we normally eat. And while I can’t think of many things strawberries don’t go with, surely they were meant to be eaten with waffles.
It occurred to me recently that I’d been wasting a lot of money on store-bought waffles. If it was a Whole Foods week, we’d have whatever healthy frozen brand they carry. If I didn’t make it to Whole Foods, we’d end up with Eggos. Now, let’s be honest. There’s no comparison in taste between Eggos and the healthy cardboard I buy from Whole Foods. But, have you looked at the Eggos ingredients lately? Food coloring? Come on! Anyway, it reminded me that we could have the best of both worlds if I just made them at home once a week and froze them. They reheat in the toaster like a dream and, once you invest in a waffle maker, you can make them with things you already have in the pantry. I like to cure my Sunday night blues by making them for dinner, but you can eat them anytime you want.
The recipe below is adapted from a Cuisinart recipe that came with my waffle maker. If you’re looking for an all-in recipe though (butter, anyone? ), check out this recipe instead–you won’t be disappointed.
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1¾ cup milk
- 6 tbsp canola oil
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Combine the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, using a whisk to combine.
- Turn on your waffle maker and follow the instructions to make the waffles to your preferred doneness. If freezing the waffles, use one setting lower than you would normal choose.
- Serve immediately or place on a cooling rack and bring to room temperature before placing in gallon size freezer bags and freezing.
Father’s Day Traditions
You know what the best thing about a tradition is? You can start a new one any time you want. You can even start one and not realize you started one until three years later. That’s kind of what happened in this house for Father’s Day. The first Father’s Day we celebrated after our daughter was born, I went all out. I started planning weeks in advance and had thoughtful and memorable gifts, perfectly wrapped and presented by our smiling baby girl. The pièce de résistance: homemade cinnamon buns. A special treat because, due to some really annoying food sensitivities (red wine, chocolate, cheese, need I say more?), my husband hadn’t eaten one in years. I found this recipe while searching for one that I could use my bread machine. Listen, I’m sure there are plenty of baking purists who would be horrified at this little act of laziness. To them I say, we’d never be friends. Just kidding. Kind of. Anyway, it’s been three Father’s Days that our little family has celebrated now and my husband is lucky if we let him sleep in until 8 before we wake him up with his only gift (a card). But you know what? We still let him have the cinnamon buns. And by let him have, I mean, I make them for me and let him (and the kids) have one too.
I’ve made this recipe the morning of, night before and even made the dough weeks in advance and frozen it. I’m pretty sure there’s no way to mess this one up. Adapted from Marsha Fernandez’s Clone of a Cinnabon.
- 1 cup warm milk
- 2 eggs
- ⅓ cup butter, melted
- 4½ cups bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 2½ tsp bread machine yeast ( or 1 packet dry active yeast)
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2½ tbsp cinnamon
- ⅓ cup softened butter
- 3 ounces softened cream cheese (or low fat cream cheese)
- ¼ cup softened butter
- 1½ cup powdered sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- Warm the milk in the microwave for 30 seconds on high. Remove and stir. Check that milk is neither hot nor cold. Add milk, beaten eggs and melted butter to the bread machine followed by the bread flour, salt, sugar and, finally, the yeast.
- Set bread machine to 'dough' cycle and start.
- Once the cycle has completed, remove dough from bread machine. If freezing all or a portion of the dough for future use, freeze at this point. Otherwise, cover and let dough rest for about 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, combine brown sugar and cinnamon. If butter has not been left out to soften, place in the microwave to soften.
- Roll dough out to roughly 12x20 (if yours ends up circular, don't sweat it, you can trim the edges afterward).
- Spread the softened butter onto the dough using a flexible spreader or large spoon.
- Spread the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly over the dough.
- Roll the dough up like a jelly roll and cut evenly into 12 rolls (cut roll in half, then cut each half into thirds and each third in half--clear as mud?)
- Place each roll into a 9x13 baking pan that has been sprayed with baking spray (here's my favorite spray)
- If making the night before, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator at this point. If making them now (waiting is too hard), preheat oven to 400 degrees F, cover and let them rise about 30 minutes.
- Bake buns about 15 minutes, or until beginning to turn golden brown and brown sugar is bubbly.
- Meanwhile, make the frosting by combining the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt in a mixer. Mix until combined.
- Immediately spread frosting on buns when they come out of the oven.